[On Sabbath] Sabbath Privileges (Hosea)

Bible opened to Hosea 2 with Green and Black's Organic Mint Dark Chocolate on zebra plate

Today’s Chocolate: Green & Black’s Organic Mint Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassagesHosea 2:8-13

The second chapter of Hosea accuses Israel of violating the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:2). The indictment is set up as a divorce case between God the faithful husband and his adulterous wife. He gives her grain, new wine, oil, silver, and gold, which she turns around and offers to the pagan god Baal. For her sin, he vows to take away not only the gifts, but also her Sabbaths: “I will also put an end to all her gaiety, her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths, and all her festal assemblies” (Hosea 2:11). This verse can easily be another record-scratch moment: is God putting an end to Israel’s obedience, in essence compelling her to disobey?

The verse, though, offers a new perspective on the Sabbath as not an ordinance, but a gift. By putting a fence around the Sabbath, God has protected it from the intrusion of relentless work and insatiable demands for productivity. The fact of the matter is that Baal, like the gods of Egypt, craves Israel’s offerings with no end to his appetite, and if Israel serves him, she can’t expect to hold onto the gift of God’s Sabbaths. One might argue that losing the Sabbath is a fair punishment for Israel’s infidelity to God. Just as Pharaoh first hardened his heart himself before God began hardening it, it seems that sometimes the punishment for disobedience is more disobedience.

Tomorrow: Amos!

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